Wednesday, March 26, 2008

China: The Killing of Tibetan Protestors, Censorship, & Arming the Darfur Conflict

Scores of Tibetans Killed Protesting

According to an Associated Press (AP) article, "exiled Tibetan rights groups say 140 Tibetans have died in the crackdown across western China." This crackdown was in response to what Chinese State television is calling the "3-14 beating, smashing, looting and burning incident," but it was really just Tibetans responding to decades of pervasive repression by the government of China on the 49th anniversary of a failed but memorable uprising.

The same article points out that the Chinese government website claims only 22 Tibetans have died since the largest freedom protest staged in Tibet in over two decades took place. The Chinese government also claims that the majority of those 22 killed were "innocents" attacked by who they call "rioters."

These stories couldn't be more different. But deciding who to believe is pretty straightforward.


The Chinese State is not known for its freedom of the press, while it is infamous for its disinformation campaigns and streamlining of information resources. Indeed, there are very few media and news outlets that aren't significantly censored or influenced by the central government and its "version" of China's history (see Internet Censorship of the People's Republic of China, and Media Censorship in China) .

A relatively recent example of this is when Google agreed to filter out the search results for certain key terms entered by users in China. This was after the Chinese government offered Google an ultimatum: censor with our guidelines or get out before we sue you for breaking our domestic information laws.

China's legal argument was that the results a user, say in the US, would get for keywords such as "Tiananmen Square," may display information which could be considered anti-government propaganda and potentially riot-inciting. Such information is illegal to create or distribute within China's borders. (In defense of Google, if Google just decided to pull out all together the flow of information in the country would have become significantly more restricted than it already was).

A BBC story on the Google censorship also points out, "the BBC news site is inaccessible [to Chinese internet surfers], while a search on [the Chinese version of Google] for the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement directs users to a string of condemnatory articles."

If this is not blatant and unjustifiable censorship I don't know what is.

Foreign Journalists Allowed a Brief & Rare Peek

Lhasa saw the first group of foreign journalists in almost two weeks after the large protests occurred on its streets. It was only for a brief visit that was supervised by state officials nearly the entire time.

It is such an extremely rare event for foreign journalists to be allowed in Tibet that it is clear China was only trying to cover up its grave human rights record while it continued to commit rights abuses. This was backed up by the personal testimony of two Lhasa residents interviewed by the foreign press.

"Two Tibetan teachers drinking in a nearby bar said they were enjoying a first night out after nighttime curfews kept them at home eating mainly tsampa — roasted barley — since the day after the March 14 riot." The AP continues, "One reason the curfew was loosened, they said, was the foreign media visit."

China Delisted from Rights Abuse List while Arming Genocide

The US State Department recently took China off its primary human rights violator list, though China has displayed no particular changes in policy nor any new good will towards addressing the heap of legitimate grievances leveled against it. However, the timing is suspiciously close to the 2008 Olympics, exactly 123 days in fact.

If anything, China's place on the US human rights abuse list should have worsened.

A recent report published by a U.S.-based nonprofit group, Human Rights First, states, according to Reuters, "Chinese sales of assault rifles and other small arms to its ally Sudan have grown rapidly during the Darfur conflict despite a U.N. arms embargo." The report also said that "China sold Sudan $55 million worth of small arms from 2003-2006 and provided 90 percent of Sudan's small arms since 2004 when a U.N. arms embargo took effect."

So it is clear. China stepped in to fill the weapons gaps created by a UN embargo on arms to Darfur for the specific purpose of slowing the mass murdering taking place there. Though the numbers are not particularly accurate (since few are counting the dead consistently), the Janjuweed and other militias are responsible for displacing over 2.5 million Darfurians and killing over 200,000 people, most of whom are innocent women and children.

China arms Darfurian genocide and yet they are taken off the US human rights transgressor list?

Image Above Freedoms & Fates

It seems that whether a Darfuri woman mowed down by AK-47 fire while fetching drinking water, or a Tibetan monk beaten to death protesting for the right to protest - China only cares about the freedoms and fates of those who can influence their image before the upcoming Olympics in Beijing.

Unfortunately for them, more and more of those with such influence are becoming the very people China abuses and whose abuse they profit from.

Foreign Reporters Watched on Tibet Tour
Google censors itself for China
US Delisting of China Upsets Rights Activists
US report links China arms sales to Darfur Carnage

No comments: